Get off my (digital) lawn

The year was 1994.

I was working apartment maintenance and had a healthy interest in computers. I also had a IBM XT knockoff in my apartment connected to a 56K modem.

One of the benefits of apartment maintenance is the lost and found that occurs when people move out quickly. Things of value usually get stored in case the owner comes back for them. But certain items become the property of the maintenance staff.

And that was me in 1994.

I told you that story so I could tell you how I came to possess the June 1994 issue of Playboy (the one with Jenny McCarthy on the cover).

Inside that issue was an article (yes, I read the articles!) “Confessions of an Internet Junkie” by J. C. Herz

I was thrilled to read someone else’s experience of early 90’s internet. Pre web browsers, pre GUIs, pre everything, the internet was a fledgling monster just getting it’s footing.

Like the author, I spent hours pouring over USENET and scrolling text. I discovered MUDs and IRC and the world outside of Cleveland, OH. I chatted late into the night with fellow gamers and MUD IMPs.

A quote from the article that still sticks with me perfectly sums up the wild west of the internet back then:

“Log off. Go to fridge and open it in hopes that something new and zany has materialized. It hasn’t.

Go back to computer and log on in hopes that something new and zany has materialized. It has.”

J C Herz - Confessions of an Internet Junkie

Never before in my life had I had access to such untapped information. Like a fire-hose pointed at a teacup, I couldn’t hold all the information the internet offered me.

Over the years the information has tripled and quadrupled ten-fold times a thousand. Google has made it easier to find the information. Point and click interfaces make it child’s play to get what you want from the internet. No doubt the internet has improved. And will continue to do so.

But every now and then I get nostalgic for the “good old days” of white text on a black screen. IRC chats and pillaging the inhabitants of Midgaard.

You know what was better back then? If you met someone on-line the odds were good that they knew something about technology. IRC chats were filled with users who knew how to download and configure clients, set their modems and log in. MUDs were populated by script writers that built rooms to add to the MUD and code that improved the MUD. Web pages loaded fast (since they were all text) and contained no ads or viruses. FTP servers brimmed with shareware and text files and the occasional nude .gif file.

Lest I sound like a grumpy old denizen of the internet evoking noobs to “get off my lawn” I’ll admit I have low interest in some of the new technology.

Nowadays I’ve embraced Facebook and am reluctantly participating in Instagram. I have a smartphone and accounts on multiple social media sites.

I’m the tech support option for my family and most of my friends.

I’ve got a server at home. I store my stuff “in the cloud”. (Well, it’s my cloud)

But I also have my Weechat IRC client open most of the day in a terminal window and I keep my config files on my FTP server. Once in a while I log into a MUD and rampage the online world via text. Sometimes there’s someone else online there, too.

I’m glad the internet is moving us forward. But I miss the good old days.

P.S. Wanna read the article? I’ve found it! Slightly NSFW because of the preserved ads on the pages.

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